John Marshall Mantel  /  AP
Juan Rodriguez, 49, sole winner of the New York Mega Millions lottery and his wife, Iris, attend a news conference in New York on Sunday.
updated 11/23/2004 4:30:06 PM ET 2004-11-23T21:30:06

With just 78 cents in his savings account and $44,000 owed to creditors, parking attendant Juan Rodriguez plunked down $1 on a lottery ticket.

Good thing he wasn’t pinching pennies: He won the $88.5 million jackpot.

Rodriguez, 49, of Queens, bought his New York state Mega Millions lottery ticket about one month after filing for bankruptcy.

He stepped forward over the weekend to claim his prize, proving to be a man of many dollars but few words. At a news conference, he wore dark glasses and said he was “excited.” Asked what he planned to do with his millions, he said, “I have no idea.”

According to court papers, Rodriguez had exactly 78 cents in his savings account and nothing in his checking account. He owed $19,486 on one credit card and $10,070 on another. And he owed the Internal Revenue Service $2,279.

Rodriguez bought his ticket in the middle of a double shift at his $28,000-a-year job as a parking garage attendant. He immigrated to the United States from Colombia in 1982.

There was one clue that Rodriguez wanted his cash fast: He opted for a lump-sum payment of $88.5 million instead of 26 annual installments that would have totaled $149 million.

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